Create a free Diverse: Issues In Higher Education account to continue reading

Disabled Student Fires Back Against North Dakota University

FARGO, N.D. — A student with cerebral palsy has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights after she was denied admission into the pharmacy program at North Dakota State University.

Kelli Sem was given conditional acceptance into the program last spring, provided she could meet physical requirements under newly adopted technical standards for pharmacy students, WDAY-TV reported. She filed her complaint after NDSU denied her request for reasonable accommodations.

Sem is currently waiting for results of investigation on her complaint, after a mediation attempt failed mid-January.

Citing email discussion from the NDSU pharmacy program, Sem’s attorney Scott Haider said NDSU adopted the new physical standards for admission after pharmacy faculty learned Sem would seek entrance into the program.

The university adopted those standards despite a recommendation from the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy, which determined in a unanimous 2012 position that Sem would be able to complete the academic program and gain a license despite her disability with “reasonable accommodations.”

Charles Peterson, who oversees the NDSU pharmacy program, told the board that the new physical standards are to ensure the program meets new accreditation standards that were supposed to be put into effect last year.

Haider said there is a possibility that Office of Civil Rights will take administrative action on the discrimination complaint. However, if not, he said another option would be to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

“Obviously we’re hopeful that the investigation will bring about information that is helpful to Kelli and avoid protracted litigation,” he said.

NDSU has declined to give a comment to WDAY-TV on the matter.

Sem now lives with her family in Minot after leaving NDSU in May. She is currently taking classes at Minot State University.

A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
American sport has always served as a platform for resistance and has been measured and critiqued by how it responds in critical moments of racial and social crises.
Read More
A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics